Making connections at the Kentucky Sports Industry Conference


Addie Fresca Photography

Neima Moaven, left, and Drew Rodriguez, right, pose for a photo at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo provided by Addie Fresca Photography

Lindsey Davis, Staff Reporter

Neima Moaven left Denver with a dream, arrived in Lexington and made it happen.

The success of the sports programs at UK made the decision to attend the university easy for Moaven. He knew wanted to be a sports agent and that UK was his ticket in.

“A lot of people ask, ‘Why choose Kentucky?’ and it was very simple for me. It was sports,” he said.

However, when he arrived, he quickly realized there was no real access to the sports industry pipeline like he imagined.

Moaven said, “I came in knowing that I wanted to go into the sports industry and hoped that the university would help me do so. I went looking just like any other student, and didn’t really come across much.”

That’s when he went to his Beta Theta Pi brother and “little” Drew Rodriguez with an idea to make the “ticket” that he dreamed of into a reality for himself and other students with similar aspirations at the university.

“I came across this model that was used at other universities, and I approached Drew with this idea to help students get jobs in the sports industry. Then we kind of just went from there,” Moaven said.

Together, Moaven and Rodriguez are co-founders and co-presidents of the Kentucky Sports Industry Conference (KSIC).

Moaven said, “We wanted to build a bigger platform for UK students with the mission of helping them break into industry.”

Rodriguez said the conference is completely student-led, which he called “something we’re really proud of.”

“Fifteen people have come together for the past year without any form of compensation, putting in countless hours because we want our outcome to be UK being the top school for the sports industry,” he said.

According to the KSIC Program Playbook, their vision is to “create the premier talent pipeline for the sports industry” and their mission is to “develop and connect diverse talent to recruit to the top companies and teams in the sports industry nationally.”

Last summer, the two went to Atlanta and New York and spoke with over 50 people in the sports industry.

“Our vision, our North Star, how we measure our success is how many students get into internships and full-time jobs,” Rodriguez said.

Moaven said that he had gained more experience and learned more from some successful entities in the sports industry than he had ever predicted.

“I had no intention of really being at the table with a bunch of heavy hitters here at a university level and on the national level with our speakers and partners,” he said.

KSIC is that ticket into the sports industry that Moaven had been looking for.

Moaven has been able to get experience as a manager on the UK men’s basketball team and as an intern on Shaedon Sharpe’s team, while Rodriguez was a summer analyst for Goldman Sachs and an intern at Steve Young’s private equity firm.

KSIC is available to all students, as one’s major has no effect on their ability to join. They have members with various majors such as communications, sports medicine, business and kinesiology.

There are also no fees to pay in order to reap the benefits of what KSIC has to offer.

KSIC hosts monthly workshops called “develop sessions,” which help students learn or improve skills needed to help them break out into the sports industry.

On Oct. 7, 2022, KSIC will be hosting a ticketed conference where students can network and connect with professionals in the industry.

“We’ve raised over $50,000 to pull this off, and we’ve gotten partners such as UK, Keeneland and Coca Cola,” Rodriguez said.

The conference starts at 8 a.m. and has an hour allotted for general admission, breakfast and the opportunity to have one’s headshot taken for a résumé.

The event will also feature guest speakers UK men’s basketball coach John Calipari and Toronto Raptors General Manager Chad Sanders from 9-10 a.m.

From 10-11 a.m., there will be different breakout sessions to choose from, such as “Esports 101,” presented by Gen.G ESports, and “Captivated Audiences,” presented by Coca Cola.

Then, there will be a mid-day session about the “New Era of Media in Sports” presented by UK College of Communication and Information from 11 a.m. to noon, followed by a lunch break from 12-12:45 p.m.

NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young will host the afternoon session from 1-2 p.m., and the networking session will take place from 2-3:15 p.m.

The conference will come to an end with a closing session about “Women Leaders in Sports,” presented by Ashley Combs, director of marketing at Excel Sports Management, as well as Jessica Holtz, co-head of basketball at CAA Sports. This event will last from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

The goal of the conference is to establish the pipeline that will help students make connections with leaders in the sports industry in order to make their own way in.

“The UK College of Communication and Information has been a huge help in all of this, so we definitely want to thank them for that. There is no major for this field right now, but they are helping us to create a pathway for students,” Rodriguez said.